Strong community bonds shine through like a ray of hope for India’s elderly

Written By: Saumyajit Roy
New Delhi Published: Jan 13, 2021, 02.04 PM(IST)

Representative image Photograph:( WION Web Team )

Story highlights

This generation has successfully embraced the world of technology to find avenues to stay connected with family and friend and re-discover that feeling of togetherness while pursuing their own interests and hobbies

In India, the community around us has always played an integral part in our lives. We live in a people-centric culture, where every occasion and emotion must be shared with those around us. Our parents and grandparents grew up in an India where neighbours arrived unannounced to chat over a cup of steaming hot tea or simply flaunt their latest buy from the neighbourhood sari shop. Generations lived together under one roof with children sharing rooms not just with siblings but cousins too. 

However, with time things have changed.

Joint families that were once a norm, have been replaced with nuclear families and empty nester households. Better prospects and opportunities have led the younger generation to settle down in different cities and countries with family reunions restricted to 2 weeks of paid leave.

Though India’s elderly have gracefully accepted the changing social and cultural environment, a lot of them still struggle to reconcile the values that they grew up witnessing, with the new age more individualistic culture of the ‘younger India’.

While summer and winter vacations spent at family homes was a norm for India’s silver generation, they are now often forced to celebrate even Diwali alone in the quiet companionship of their aging spouse as their children choose to vacation abroad.

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Despite, the elders acknowledging the reasons for the changing social fabric, the looming shadows of loneliness and isolation begin to quietly creep up and fill those empty corners of the house.

This is a generation that is used to building their lives around their families, especially their children, making the sense of isolation even deeper. However, this is also the generation that has lived through some of the most challenging and revolutionary times and has successfully adapted itself with sheer grit and resilience.

Thus, when faced with even more challenging and trying times such as the ongoing pandemic, they have successfully rallied together to create communities that empower them to repurpose and lead fuller lives. 

Alka Sharma, a 65-year-old retired teacher, residing in Vasant Vihar, suddenly woke up to the faint smell of smoke. She walked around the house and found intermittent sparks arising from her main switchboard. Mr Sharma was away visiting their son Amit in Canada and now unable to return as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

Mrs Sharma immediately remembered Amit’s instructions to press the emergency button on her senior citizens app that he had recently installed on her phone.

Simultaneously she sent a message out to her Vasant Vihar morning walk group consisting of other senior citizens from her neighbourhood. Within minutes, she had the emergency service as well as 3 of her neighbours rushing to her home.

Mrs Mehta, Alka’s next-door neighbour and morning walk friend, helped her pack an overnight bag, and stayed by her side all night while she calmed her worried husband and son sitting miles away. The next few days were spent relishing hot cups of tea, with her neighbours and morning walk friends who stopped by to make sure she was safe and well.

India’s elderly are bound by a common thread of their collective experiences and have learnt to harness this power of togetherness through various groups and communities that they have formed and nurtured, especially during these last few challenging months.

This generation has successfully embraced the world of technology to find avenues to stay connected with family and friend and re-discover that feeling of togetherness while pursuing their own interests and hobbies.

Whether it is video calls with the grandchildren or attending neighbourhood Diwali parties through Zoom or Google Meet, India’s senior citizens, especially those residing in urban areas, are cherishing the time spent with family and friends even if it is restricted to virtual platforms.

The lockdown served as a catalyst encouraging the elderly to explore the world of social media and stay updated with the outside world. Some of them rediscovered old friendships while others chanced upon various groups created by and for senior citizens. 

Many became active on WhatsApp and joined the numerous groups created to allow seniors to feel connected with each other despite the limitations of physical distance.

From morning yoga sessions to afternoon cooking demos, this senior citizen-focussed communities, ensure a fulfilling daily schedule that is both engaging and relaxing for its members. Besides, as active members of these communities, the elders continue to feel as Independent contributors to society while experiencing the warmth of companionship and togetherness.

The various health apps have also played an integral role in allowing elders to stay safe and fit in the comfort of their home while creating an ecosystem that takes care of their physical and emotional well –being.

Regular check-in calls and prompt emergency services give elders as well as their children staying away from home, the sense of security that one desires from their community. 

The pandemic has been particularly difficult for India’s elderly. As the more vulnerable targets of this dreaded virus, the senior citizens have been forced to re-envision a new world within the four walls of their homes.

However, it has encouraged them to embrace a whole new virtual world and community that can be accessed at the tip of a button. They are no longer restricted by physical distance as they reconnect with old friends and forge new relationships.

Ruchika Club in South Mumbai has hundreds of women over 65, join in every week for an exciting new virtual workshop on international cuisine. The clubs in Gurgaon are hosting virtual bingo nights for their senior citizen members, while condominiums are hosting virtual entertainment evenings hosted by the senior citizens residing in the society.

India’s elderly have always believed in the power of the community, but now with the help of technology they are once again able to enjoy that same feeling of belonging and togetherness from the comfort of their own homes.

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